Week 31: Willa Jean

Willa Jean

611 O’Keefe Avenue

New Orleans, Louisiana 70113

Willa Jean

Willa Jean

 

Louisianans love to dwell on the details of their most recent meal, and as the state that practically invented brunch (a disputed fact, but we’ll take credit, thank you) the standards are particularly high for morning fare.

The state, and the Crescent City specifically, has seen an influx of breakfast-y joints over the past few years, but one in particular has hit a high note with residents and visitors alike.

A variety of goodies greet guests at Willa Jean’s counter. 

A variety of goodies greet guests at Willa Jean’s counter. 

When you walk into the bright, modern space in New Orleans’ South Market District that is Willa Jean, you’re instantly hit with the intoxicating scent of freshly baked bread and pulled espresso. Guests are greeted by a large sign declaring “U Needa Biscuit,” and never has a suggestion been more true.

Headed by Lisa White and Kelly Fields, Willa Jean is a bakery and a restaurant, but more importantly it is a celebration of bread. Serving as the foundation of the menu, buttery brioche, sweet Hawaiian rolls, chewy focaccia, and more form the base of a decadent variety of savory creations.

Kelly designed this Willa Jean biscuit merch, which you can find here (http://www.shopwillajean.com/collections/apparel). 

Kelly designed this Willa Jean biscuit merch, which you can find here (http://www.shopwillajean.com/collections/apparel). 

The duo’s biscuits in particular have garnered a considerable following. On their own, or simply buttered up and topped with jam, these fluffy treats are a carb-lover’s dream.

What sets these biscuits apart, you ask? A brilliant mix of technique, ingredients, and a little bit of magic.

These biscuits are flaky on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. 

These biscuits are flaky on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. 

“The technique is pretty simple,” Kelly says. “Combine the dry ingredients, cut in cold butter, finish with buttermilk until the flour is hydrated. The dough is then rolled, folded over several times, and then cut. We let the biscuits rest in the cooler and then brush them with cream before baking.”

The secret ingredient is the flour.

Lisa says, “I can't believe we are telling the world this…but we use Caputo “00” Pasta Fresca. This flour is milled from a specific part of the wheat, and the result is a light and tender product.”

The magic comes from years of experience.

“My mom is an incredible baker, from whom I still steal recipes,” says Kelly. “Baking was a constant part of our home kitchen, even from a young age.”

Lisa says, “I grew up playing with recipes from Betty Crocker cookbook - the red edition. And then I remember getting Mastering the Art of French Cooking and it petrified me!”

The two eventually found their way into chef and restaurateur John Besh’s various restaurants, where Kelly has spent years developing the company’s pastry programs. Lisa honed her craft, perfecting the breads and sweets as Domenica, a stylish Italian eatery.

Lisa and Kelly joined forces in 2015 with the goal of opening a restaurant/bakery that combined everything they love about food and hospitality into one space.

“Willa Jean was my grandmother's name,” says Kelly. “It became a natural fit. My grandmother always encouraged me to be true to myself, and to put all of myself on the line in everything that I do.  She was by far the biggest advocate in my life for pursuing my passion for food and service.”

Kelly (l) and Lisa Marie at the counter. 

Kelly (l) and Lisa Marie at the counter. 

“Once Kelly said ‘Willa Jean,’ it just seemed perfect,” says Lisa. “I remember her saying ‘Let’s sleep on it,’ but I already knew that was the name.”

Since then the pair have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success, and are paying it forward by passing on their biscuit recipe.

Kelly’s biscuit-making advice is “Work quickly, keep everything cold, and don’t overthink it,” while Lisa muses, “Have fun! It’s just food.”

(Link with brunch history: http://www.louisianacookin.com/louisianas-best-brunch/)

Recipe:

Biscuits with Sausage gravy

Yields 8 servings

Ingredients:

32 ounces pork sausage

1 cup all-purpose flour

9 cups milk (2qt 1 cup)

2 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon pepper

1 tablespoon red crushed red pepper

1 tablespoon of tabasco

 

Cooking method and Preparation:

Cook sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring until beef is no longer pink.

Once meat is cooked sprinkle the one cup of flour over meat until all meat is coated and a light fond is created (do not let it get dark). Turn heat to high, gradually whisk in milk, whisking constantly, 7 to 10 minutes or until gravy is thicken to your liking add in salt, pepper, red crushed pepper and tabasco. Cook for another 5 min. Taste to make sure flour has been cooked out, if not cook for another 5 min or until gravy doesn't have a flour taste. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Helpful tips:

If gravy is to thick, thin it out with milk. Make sure milk and gravy are both hot.

If gravy is too thin, melt 4oz of butter, stir in 4oz of flour, cook for 5 min (until flour taste is gone) and slowly add into hot gravy. Cook for 5 minutes or until gravy thickens up (you may or may not use all of the roux).

 

Biscuits

2cup caputo flour (cake flour works too)

5tablespoons butter, grated through a cheese grater and chilled

2tablespoons baking powder

2teaspoons sugar

1teaspoon salt

1cup buttermilk

 

Preheat oven to 365

Add all dry to a large bowl and mix by hand until combined.

Grate cold butter and add to dry mixture.

Add buttermilk to mixture and combine until all of the dry ingredients are hydrated.

Put the dough onto a floured surface and roll into a rectangle 12inch by 8inch.

Fold the top of the rectangle halfway toward the middle, fold the bottom of the rectangle on top. Flour the top and invert.

Roll into an approximate 12 inch by 8inch rectangle.

With seams facing down, roll into a square.

Cut into squares of desired size. Brush with buttermilk. Bake at 365 until tops and bottoms are golden brown and the middle have set. Around 30 minutes.

 

 

This blog was submitted by one of the International Biscuit Festival freelance writers, Courtney McDuff, who also obtained these photos. Courtney is the Online Editor at Hoffman Media, publisher of Louisiana Cookin’ magazine. Check out more great Louisiana recipes at louisianacookin.com.  

 

Try these topped with fried chicken and Tobasco-honey on the menu at Willa Jean.

Try these topped with fried chicken and Tobasco-honey on the menu at Willa Jean.

Week 30: Butter Bakery and Cafe

I came across Butter Bakery and Café in South Minneapolis the same way most people probably still do – I lived in the neighborhood and became a regular. I’d stop in on the way to work to grab a scone and a cup of coffee. I’d meet friends there for brunch on the weekends. I’d run into neighbors there and sit down with them for an impromptu chat. I got to know the staff and the owner, Dan Swenson-Klatt. I became a part of the Butter community, and eventually, I even worked there as a baker. 

Being a baker, especially one who opens a shop, is far from glamorous. It means rolling out of bed and getting to work by five in the morning (sometimes hours earlier). No matter how careful you are in the kitchen, you inevitably bear the battle scars of baking in the form of multiple burns from hot pans and oven doors. The work can also be monotonous; making the same scones, muffins, sweet breads and coffee cakes day after day, week after week.  

But there’s always that one thing you enjoy making, no matter how often you have to make it. For me, when I was opening baker at Butter, that item was the biscuits. I loved how just a few simple ingredients mixed quickly together combined into a delightfully fluffy dough. I loved scooping the dough out of a big bowl onto a floured surface and gently pressing it to just the right height. My favorite part was stamping out each biscuit and laying it on the sheet pan. It was intensely satisfying. It was also pretty satisfying to take the fresh-baked biscuits out of the oven and admire them in all their golden, fluffy glory. 

Swenson-Klatt inherited the biscuit recipe, along with a few others (such as eclairs), with the space when he opened on Grand Avenue in 2006. He improved upon it by using locally-made butter from Hope Creamery. “Hope butter was the upgrade to the biscuits that really put them on the map,” says Swenson-Klatt. “It was easy to say there’s a story, but there’s also a taste – both things together created a biscuit that was what people really wanted.” 

Nearly all of the items at Butter are made from scratch in-house using locally sourced products, which is no easy feat in Minnesota. “Sourcing locally has been a way to reimagine the way Minneapolis eats,” Swenson-Klatt observes. “There’s been a real revival – even though our growing season here is short. I’ve enjoyed watching that grow around me.” 

Swenson-Klatt was also one of the first to make his restaurant a sustainable space with little-to-no waste. He began composting early and has enjoyed seeing it become the norm city-wide. “Now there are compost carts in everyone’s yards. I was ahead of the game, but I never wanted to be the only one in the game,” he jokes. 

Butter has always been a community-focused space, the kind of coffee shop that makes the neighborhood feel like a small town in a big city. Swenson-Klatt loves that Butter succeeds in providing that kind of experience. He notes, "We're a place where people bring their kids to meet the people in their neighborhood." 

Swenson-Klatt worked behind a grill as a cook when he was in high school, which was the extent of his restaurant experience until he opened Butter. He taught seventh and eighth graders in the Twin Cities metro for nineteen years. During his last decade of teaching, he taught in alternative school programs designed to work with kids who didn’t fit a standard traditional school setting. He even experimented with bringing kids into the kitchen to learn how to cook and bake.  

When Butter moved to a bigger space on Nicollet Avenue in 2012, Swenson-Klatt began a partnership with Nicollet Square to provide internships for kids who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. “As a former teacher, and especially as a teacher in alternative settings who has worked with young folds who have been struggling, I wanted to find a place to do that as a business owner, but I didn't know how to bring it into what I was doing," he explains. "It's having an impact beyond serving good foo. which gives me a bigger purpose than what I'd been doing." 

That doesn’t mean the food comes second; in fact, it has garnered Butter ongoing recognition. In addition to the biscuit sandwich, the café is known for its biscuits with homemade sausage gravy or mushroom gravy. The kitchen also accommodates request for variations on the biscuit sandwich, and offers a simple griddled biscuit with a side of butter and jam. “If you choose the best butter, it’s going to be pretty good,” Swenson-Klatt says, referring to the Butter biscuit. “There aren’t a lot of ingredients in them, so if you use good ingredients, like Hope butter – part of it is that it’s just simple.” 

People often ask Swenson-Klatt about the butterfly in Butter’s logo. He explains that it has something to do with transformation. "Most folks recognize the beauty of seeing places and people transform, "he explains. "I bought this place with my father’s inheritance, and he wanted me to do something good with it. It’s been a transformation for my family, for me, and indeed, this whole neighborhood, to have a place that’s community-oriented. It’s all about finding support for each other. To be able to do that is a gift. It sure helps to have the good food, too.” 

Butter’s Buttermilk Biscuits 

Makes about 10 biscuits 

4.5 cups (22.5 oz) flour 

1/8 cup (1 oz) baking powder 

¾ teaspoon salt 

16 Tablespoons (0.5 lb) cold butter, grated (use the large holes on a cheese grater) 

2 eggs 

2 3/8 cups (20 oz) buttermilk 

 

Preheat convection oven to 325 degrees or regular oven to 300 degrees. 

 

·                Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a big bowl. 

·                Mix the chilled grated butter into the flour mixture. You can dust the butter in the flour mixture to make it easier to handle. 

·                Whisk the eggs and buttermilk together. 

·                Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet into it. Quickly stir the wet ingredients in and knead it a few times to pull it all together, but be careful not to overmix it. 

·                Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pat it down into a rectangle about 2” high. Cut into rounds with a 3 ½” flour cutter (straight down, no twisting). 

·                Place biscuits on baking sheet covered in parchment paper so they just touch. Bake about 15-20 minutes in convection oven or 20-25 minutes in regular oven until they turn golden brown (do not overcook). 

·                Remove from oven, let cool enough to separate the biscuits, and enjoy! 

Week 29: Bella's Cafe

New Haven, Connecticut

By Amanda Balagur

 

For Rose Foote, owner of Bella’s Café, it’s more than just a cliché to say that cooking is in her blood. Her grandparents maintained separate restaurants in downtown Bridgeport, Connecticut, for decades: her grandfather came from Greece and established Nick’s Diner, while her grandmother came from Italy and established Paula’s Diner. Foote remembers watching her grandmother in the kitchen and helping her out by washing dishes. She also remembers that her grandfather insisted on feeding some of the local homeless because he felt that no one deserved to go hungry.

Foote’s parents took a more united approach. They established a restaurant together in 1962 in Trumbull, Connecticut, which is where they raised their kids. Their former customers still reminisce with Foote about her father Richie’s old-fashioned hot cinnamon donuts. Their restaurant was the only breakfast place in town, and Foote and her siblings often pitched in to help.

The funny thing is, Foote never really wanted to follow in the footsteps of her parents and grandparents. It wasn’t until she was about 25 years old and helping her mother out with a catering gig that she realized she wanted to be a chef. “Whatever was creative in me blossomed,” Foote remarks. “It was like a light bulb went off and I said, ‘Oh my god, this is what I want to do!’”

After a stint as an assistant pastry chef at Reader’s Digest, Foote worked on the line in the kitchens of several restaurants in southern Connecticut, learning to master her chosen trade. She was tough, like her grandmother, and enjoyed the challenge of experimenting with ingredients and creating new dishes. Eventually, she got tired of working for other people, and dreamed of opening her own restaurant someday.

Although Foote had never worked in New Haven, she often went there to dine. She was sitting on the patio of a restaurant on Whalley Avenue when she spotted the perfect space for her future café, right across the street. “I said, ‘I’d love a place like this,’” she remembers. Two years later, she bought the space she dreamed of owning and outfitted it with a functioning kitchen. In 2000, Bella’s Café was open for business for breakfast, lunch and brunch. These days, you’ll find a line out the door on the weekends for brunch, often with an hour-long wait.

Foote describes the food she serves at Bella’s as casual comfort food with a contemporary flair. She often does Southern-influenced cooking. Foote has always loved the New Orleans-style jazz brunch, and wanted to incorporate the food and atmosphere of the Big Easy into her own restaurant. “When I think of Southern, I think of breakfast. It’s comfort food,” she says.

The menu at Bella’s is seasonal and always changing. They serve breakfast all day during the week, including favorites such as Italian-style French toast and eggs benedict made with smoked pork. One of her best-selling items is shrimp and grits, served sizzling in a cast iron skillet on a wooden charger with a biscuit on the side. This dish was originally created as a special, but Foote added it to the regular menu based on demand.

And it’s easy to see why. The grits are made with cream, milk and butter – not water. They are heavenly, fluffy and rich. The base of the dish is chorizo smoked sausage sautéed with onion, combined with chicken stock, bay leaves and a few other ingredients. Shrimp get added to the chorizo base, and then the whole thing is spooned over the grits into the hot skillet, then topped with scrambled eggs. The result is a memorable dish that will spoil you for any other version of shrimp and grits on the eastern seaboard.

To find a biscuit she liked, Foote went from recipe to recipe. The version she makes is pure gold, as in: true buttery goodness. Her biscuits are high, with a tender interior that sops up the sauce of the shrimp and grits beautifully. But this biscuit can easily be eaten alone. It’s so moist and delicious, it’s like eating a stick of butter – in a good way.

The biscuit is often featured in specials, too, such as biscuits and gravy made with maple-pork sausage, or fried chicken on a biscuit. Bella’s recently featured a special with braised pork shoulder served over a biscuit with wild mushroom sauce, poached eggs and Tasso hollandaise. Foote’s inventiveness and love of breakfast food is obviously a major draw for locals, but she gets visitors from all over. Former students from nearby Yale and Southern Connecticut State University often reunite with their classmates at Bella’s over brunch.

While it may seem like a natural fit for Foote to own a restaurant, she doesn’t take what she does for granted. “I’m so blessed,” she says. “I’ve got so much joy. I love being here.” Once you taste Bella’s biscuits, you’ll feel exactly the same way.

Bella’s Buttermilk Biscuits

2 1/4 cups self-rising flour

1/2 cup cold butter

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

melted butter

·       Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

·       Measure flour into a bowl.

·       Cut the butter with a sharp knife or pastry blender into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Sprinkle butter slices over flour in a large bowl.

·       Toss butter with flour, then cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly and mixture resembles small peas.

·       Cover and chill 10 minutes.

·       Add buttermilk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

·       Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 3 or 4 times, gradually adding additional flour as needed.

·       With floured hands, press or pat dough into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle. Sprinkle top of dough with additional flour. Fold dough over onto itself in 3 sections, starting with 1 short end. Repeat entire process 2 more times, beginning with pressing into a 3/4-inch-thick dough rectangle.

·       Press or pat dough down to 1/2-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface; cut with a 2-inch round cutter, and place biscuits, side by side, on a parchment paper-lined or lightly greased jelly-roll pan.

·       Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

·       Remove from oven; brush with 2 Tbsp. melted butter.

 

 

Amanda Balagur is a freelance food journalist based in Boston. She recently got a master's in gastronomy at Boston University with a concentration in food history, culture and communications. Amanda also works as a freelance marketing consultant specializing in strategy, content management, copywriting and social media at Balagur Marketing.

Week 28: Polly's Pancake Parlor

New Hampshire

Polly’s Pancake Parlor, Sugar Hill New Hampshire

By Elizabeth Navisky    

Let’s play word association.  I saw New England, you say…snow, cold mountains.  Biscuits, however, probably do not come to mind.  But they should, especially if you happen to find yourself in Sugar Hill, New Hampshire.  Then you should run, don’t walk, to Polly’s Pancake Parlor, a mecca for all things breakfast, including their fluffy, crispy, salty and sweet maple bacon biscuits.          

Though Polly’s has been serving pancakes since 1938, the biscuits didn’t appear on the menu until eight years ago.  That’s when co-owners Kathie and Dennis Côté wanted to find a use for the extra buckwheat, whole wheat and corn flour that Polly’s stone grinds itself for their various pancake mixes. Not all of it fit into the bags they sell both in-store and online, so after some tinkering, the maple bacon biscuit recipe was born.  It also incorporates Polly’s maple sugar and maple syrup, making it “a representation of everything we do here in one little biscuit,” according to the Côtés’ daughter, Emily, great-granddaughter of the Polly who started it all.

In the early 1900s, Pauline “Polly” Taylor, a professional violinist, summered with her parents in Sugar Hill where she met Wilfred “Sugar Bill” Dexter. They married and ran his farm and maple business together.  Eventually they opened a tea room in a former carriage shed across from the farm as a way to market their maple products.  At that time, Polly’s seated 24.  Polly and Will’s daughter, Nancy Aldrich, and her husband Roger took over in 1949 and Kathie, Dennis, Emily, her brother, Chris, and her boyfriend Scott Carmichael gradually became involved as well, making it a true family affair.  The restaurant was only open summers until 2015 when they demolished the old building and built a new one.  Now the antiques-laden, rustic, wood structure accommodates 110 hungry people year round.

Trot Trot, the Swedish wooden horse built by Roger Aldrich in 1992, greets diners as they arrive

Trot Trot, the Swedish wooden horse built by Roger Aldrich in 1992, greets diners as they arrive

 

 In the airy, red and yellow tiled kitchen, baker Samantha Cargill makes the maple bacon topping first.  It’s a combination of Polly’s maple sugar and syrup, flour, butter and New Hampshire’s own North Country Smokehouse bacon. She spreads it quickly over the bottom of the parchment-lined pan. 

Next she moves on to the biscuit dough itself, gently kneading with her hands until the mixture just barely comes together.  She uses a biscuit cutter to make an even dozen and places them on top of the maple bacon goodness.

After baking for 20 minutes, she takes them out of the oven and flips the pan over.  She peels the parchment off and quickly separates the biscuits to prevent them sticking together.

Baker, Samantha Cargill, with the finished product

Baker, Samantha Cargill, with the finished product

  Denise Simonu putting the biscuits in the bakery case

  Denise Simonu putting the biscuits in the bakery case

Because of the low ratio of topping to biscuit, these beauties are more savory than sweet, making them ideal for breakfast and beyond. “People often order four biscuits to go if they’re going hiking or camping.  They’re as good as energy bars!” Emily says with a twinkle in her eye.

On an average day, Polly’s sells two dozen biscuits, but the number varies, especially during busy times like Columbus Day Weekend 2015, when visiting leaf peepers managed to eat almost seven dozen!

Polly’s Maple Syrup and Maple Sugar is used in the biscuits

Polly’s Maple Syrup and Maple Sugar is used in the biscuits

Polly’s kitchen is split into three parts: The back, where the baking is done

Polly’s kitchen is split into three parts: The back, where the baking is done

The middle, where eggs and other breakfast items are made

The middle, where eggs and other breakfast items are made

The front, where servers make the pancakes themselves.

The front, where servers make the pancakes themselves.

 Maple Bacon Biscuits

by Kathie and Dennis Côté

Polly’s Pancake Parlor

Makes 12 biscuits

 

What you need:

Topping:

1 lb bacon

⅔ cup Polly's Pure Granulated Maple Sugar

¾ cup Polly's Pure Maple Syrup

¼ cup flour

4 TBS melted butter

 

Biscuits:

2 cups Polly's Pancake Original Pancake Mix

2 cups white flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

½ cup of chilled butter (1 stick)

2 cups of cold milk or buttermilk

 

How to make it:

 

1.    Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Line the 9x13 pan with parchment paper.

2.    Cook the bacon just enough to lightly brown it.  You want limp bacon so that it doesn't burn in the oven later. Remove bacon from pan and allow to cool.

3.    Chop bacon into ½- ¾ inch pieces.

4.    In a bowl blend the rest of the topping ingredients until well combined, and add bacon.

5.    Spray the parchment paper in the bottom of the pan with a light coating of nonstick spray. Pour the topping mixture on top of the parchment in the pan, and spread out the mixture until evenly dispersed (it doesn't have to be perfect).

6.    In a mixing bowl combine original pancake mix, white flour, salt, and baking powder.

7.    Cut butter into ½ inch pieces. Add to dry ingredients and work them in gently by pressing the butter pieces with your fingers until they are combined. It should look crumbly with some larger pieces of butter left intact. Be careful not to handle it too much, or too briskly- this will overwork the dough and make the biscuits tough.

8.    Add the milk, mix with a fork or spatula until just combined. The dough should be sticky and wet.

9.    You can now either gently roll out the dough and cut it (although you may need to add a little more flour to the dough) OR use a large ice cream scoop or spoon to “drop” the biscuits into the pan. You should be able to fit 12 biscuits in the pan, they will expand. 

10. Bake biscuits at 475 degrees F for 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through and tops are golden brown.

11. Remove from oven and immediately flip the tray of biscuits over (so the topping is on the top) onto a parchment lined cutting board. Remove the tray and remove the parchment paper right away! This step needs to happen carefully and quickly, so that you end up with the topping on top. Be careful not to burn yourself. If there is a lot of topping left on the parchment paper, scrape it off and pile it on top of your biscuits. 

12. Cool slightly but split biscuits apart while they are still warm so that the topping doesn’t stick them together.

Tips: Feel free to use Cornmeal, Whole Wheat or Buckwheat pancake mixes in place of the original for a different flavor (the oatmeal does not work as well in our experience.)

These biscuits taste great just on their own without the topping mixture to accompany a stew or chowder! Simply mix up the biscuit dough and “drop” the biscuits into a greased pan. Cook at 475 degrees F for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown on the top. Drop out of the pan, pull apart, and serve!

 

 

 

 

Visit Polly’s Pancake Parlor

672 Route 117 (Sugar Hill Rd)

Sugar Hill, NH 03585

603.823.5575

pollyspancakeparlor.com

f Polly’s Pancake Parlor

@pollyspancakeparlor

 

 

Elizabeth Navisky grew up in a household with frozen vegetables and low-sodium cooking but had an epiphany when she discovered Julia Child at age 5.  She hasn’t looked back since.  Elizabeth has her Masters in Gastronomy from Boston University and has been a freelance food writer for over a decade.  She has written for The James Beard Foundation and the Boston Globe among other publications.  In addition to food writing, Elizabeth teaches people how to cook and is a personal chef.

Week 27: Palomino

Palomino

2491 S Superior St

Milwaukee, WI53207

414.747.1007

palominobar.com

Wisconsin set a record for milk production in 2015, at just over 29 billion pounds, according to the USDA. Folks come from all over the world to indulge in it’s most famous food, cheese. But, cheese isn’t the only product that the Badger State’s herd of more than 1 million dairy cows produce. It’s Wisconsin butter and buttermilk which hold the key to Palomino’s biscuits.

Located along Lake Michigan shoreline in the Milwaukee neighborhood of Bay View, Palomino is the third expression for sister and brother restaurateur team, Valeri (Val) and Adam Lucks. The siblings are excellent chefs in their own right. While Val is a self-taught pastry chef, Adam is classically trained and leads the savory side of things at Palomino. In true sibling form, the two once duked it out in a biscuit showdown. “He’s an excellent chef, and such a good cook. I’m not good at that. But, I was like, ‘nope, you can’t beat me at biscuits.’ I won,” Val laughs with a bit of side-eyed smirk. “There’s a reason I don’t make biscuits anymore, because Val’s biscuits are that good,” Adam exclaims.

Without giving away her biscuit recipe, she says it’s a pretty basic one. Flour, a lot of baking powder, salt, but really the key is European-style Wisconsin butter from a local farm called Freis Von Kiel Butter, buttermilk, “and that’s it, but lots of butter.”  Baker, Gabrielle Lewin takes us back to the kitchen to give us the scoop…

 Val started developing the biscuit recipe at their sister restaurant, Honeypie, and worked on it a long time. “They’re not as ubiquitous as they are in the South, and they’re often not as good. I’m really proud of that recipe. I love making biscuits,” she smiles. Her brother, Adam couldn’t agree more. “It’s this warm, butter, fluffy thing that no matter what you put on top of it, it can really make you smile.” Speaking of toppings, Palomino biscuits are large enough for sandwich making, but the house-made seasonal jams were plenty to put a smile on our face.

Actually, there’s several keys to Palomino biscuits, and they’re all steeped in the foundations of comfort food. 

Relative in nature, comfort food is “made with a lot of care, a lot of love, and has a sense of place,” Val explains. Adam adds that it’s “rooted in simple food made with great ingredients that have been simply prepared and doesn’t need to be overdone,” he continues that comfort “means its all about knowing that food is coming from a good place, and that it’s been cared for every step along the way.”

By using techniques their grandparents might have used, these two are not about short cuts. While Adam and his team grinds locally-sourced brisket daily for the Palomino Brisket Burger, Val and her bakers are busy baking an assortment of daily pies. There’s “Pie Grams” that are 6-inch pies mailed anywhere in the U.S., accompanied by a hand-written card designed by Milwaukee artists. Then, there’s Pie Class. Students can learn everything from Crust 101, Fruit Fillings to Thickeners and Streusel Toppings. Because it’s Wisconsin, you get a drink token from the bar for class. Val smiles, “We like to drink beer when we do things.”

Val and Adam travel South, often. Along the way, they’ve picked up more than just biscuit cred. These two are true blues when it comes to Bourbon as it’s “also rooted in comfort, family secrets and family recipes that have been passed down…the process has been the same through generations much like a biscuit,” Adam explains. It’s a Palomino goal to be one of the best bourbon bars in Milwaukee, the Midwest, and perhaps the country. “If Pappy shows up, we arm wrestle for it,” Val smiles, “the art and craft of it is really cool, but it’s just delicious.”

As the aromas of fresh biscuits and strawberry jam waft the room, we peruse Palomino’s art deco bar of bourbon, and notice a horse lamp at the bar’s corner. The “Magical Horse Lamp of Love” is a permanent Palomino fixture, who’s powers even Val could not escape. Will you be next?

Can’t make one of Val’s pie classes? Never fear. Try this Val original at home:

PEACH CRUMBLEBERRY PIE

By Valeri Lucks,Co-Owner & Chief Executive Pie Maker

Palomino & Honeypie Cafe Milwaukee, WI

One unbaked, single   pie crust

5          fresh, ripe Georgia peaches,  peeled, pitted,  and sliced

3c        Wisconsin or Michigan blueberries

1T        fresh lemon juice

3/4c     white sugar    

1/4c     all-purpose flour

1t         sea salt

3/4c     all-purpose flour

1/2c     brown sugar

1t         sea salt

1/2t      cinnamon

1/2c     cold Wisconsin butter, cut into 1/2” pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare yoursingle pie crust in a deep 9-10” pie pan.

Mix all the fresh fruit and lemon juicein a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix together sugar, flour and sea salt. Mix into the fruit bowl to coat all the fruit. Pour fruit mixture into the pie crust. Place pie onto a foil covered baking sheet or stone and bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. While pie is baking, in a small bowl, mix flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.Scatter cold butter pieces over top of dry mixture. Using a pastry cutter or fork, cut butter into the flour mixture until small pea-sized pieces are formed (don’t cut the butter down too small). Use your fingers a bit to bring clumps together to create a crumble. Set aside in the freezer until ready to use. After 35 minutes have passed, remove pie from the oven. Sprinkle the cold crumble over the top of the pie. Return to oven and lower temperature to350 degrees. Bake for another 25-35 minutes or until the pie filling begins to bubble and thicken around the edges and in the center (it’s ok if it takes a little longer if your peaches were juicy).Remove from oven and allow the pie to cool for at least four more hours. Serve at room temperature or warmed with some ice cream (it’s also delicious cold from the fridge!)Pie will be good at room temp for up to 4 days – if it lasts that long. The center (it’s ok if it takes alittle longer if your peaches were juicy.) Remove from oven and allow the pie to cool for at least four more hours. Serve at room temperature or warmed with some ice cream (it’s also delicious cold from the fridge!) Pie will be good at room temp for up to 4 days – if it lasts that long.          

 

Written by Melissa D. Corbin- A Nashville- based freelance food and travel journalist. Corbin is also the founder of Corbin In The Dell, a consulting company connecting those who care about where their food comes from. Continue the conversation with her on instagram @melcorbin, twitter @mdcorbin or visit her website at corbininthedell.com.

Week 26: Devil's Teeth Baking Co

50 States of Biscuits California-

Devil’s Teeth Baking Co.

by Keia Mastrianni

The first time I stumbled upon Devil’s Teeth Baking Co., I was visiting my best friend who had just made the cross-country move to San Francisco. She settled in the Outer Sunset, a neighbor-hood just blocks from Ocean Beach on the west side of the city. Known for a relaxed vibe that pulses just a tad slower than the rest of the city, the Outer Sunset is home to families, a large concentration of the city’s vibrant Chinese community, and surfers looking to catch a few waves. 

One morning we strolled down Noriega street to a buzzing storefront. By 8 am, Devil’s Teeth Baking Co. had a line out the door and a handful of locals– parents with strollers, folks dressed for a full workday, and the hip, young set–claimed their space in the parklet out front to sip steaming cups of coffee, and dig into one of the bakery’s handmade pastries. What caught my eye were the brave, hungry souls tackling one of the most massive breakfast sandwiches I’ve ever seen. Devil’s Teeth offers one breakfast sandwich, which is more than enough. Comprised of the bakery’s famous buttery biscuit (which is the size of a boxer’s fist), two scrambled eggs, melted cheddar cheese and thick slices of bacon, it is a sight to behold. Once you devise your strategy for eating this colossal sandwich, it’s over. You will be compelled, as if by an unseen hand, to eat the entire thing. Don’t fight it. 

Devil’s Teeth Baking Co. opened in February 2011 by Hilary Passman, a former lawyer turned baking goddess. She began baking from home, selling pastries wholesale, but soon outgrew her home kitchen and needed a brick and mortar. She settled on Noriega Street, between 45th and 46th Avenue, where she opened Devil’s Teeth. Named after the craggy Farallon Islands just off the coast of San Francisco (nineteenth century sailors nicknamed the islands “the Devil’s Teeth”), she opened the bakery with no sign or telephone number. But people found her, and the neighborhood welcomed a place to grab a quick meal. At the bakery, you’ll find incredible cinnamon rolls, an assortment of muffins, and giant cookies, in addition to simple breakfast and lunch items. But it’s Passman’s giant flaky biscuit, crisp and buttery on the outside, with a tender interior, that has won the hearts of locals and tourists alike. Though I call the East Coast home, this biscuit is worth a cross-country trip.

Week 25: Bolyard's Meat and Provisions

  

Maplewood, Missouri was the last stop on St. Louis’ streetcar line during the early 1900’s. This suburban St. Louis community has seen many changes through the years. Yet, Bolyard’s Meat and Provisions continues the timeless traditions of a full-service butcher shop right in the heart of Maplewood. 

When Chris Bolyard graduated in 2000 from Culinary Institutes of America in Hyde Park, New York, how his biscuits were buttered wasn’t exactly an obsession for this Midwestern chef. Actually, whole animal butchering, charcuterie, sausage-making and all the “fun stuff that goes along with it” led him and his wife, Abbie, to realize their entrepreneurial dreams in 2014. They opened Bolyard’s Meat and Provisions that November.

Encased in vintage windows, the shop is bathed in natural light. Its shelves are filled with provisions such as local honey, house-made soaps made from tallow, smoked salts, and other notions not found on your average grocery run. The aromas of smoke-cured meats and other tasty morsels tantalize the strongest of wills. But, it’s the biscuits that won our hearts.

As it turns out, Chris doesn’t butter his biscuits at all. He prefers lard.

The day we stopped by, Chris was removing spare ribs from the belly of a locally-sourced hog. He explained that the hard fat along the belly will be sold fresh, or as bacon. The fat running beneath the ribs is soft fat. He pointed to a particular soft fat which protects the animal’s kidneys, “this renders down well and is called leaf lard.” Lard is always from pork, tallow is from beef, and schmaltz is from chicken. Still, the rendering process is the same. Freshly ground soft fat is boiled with water over medium heat, until the water evaporates. The remaining bits of meat are filtered out, leaving clear lard.

 

As a couple picked up their pre-ordered “Butcher’s Box” at the register, Chris took us behind the counter to share his biscuit secrets. “I wished I could say I made them with my mother or grandma, but that’s not the case. I’m self-taught, and learned from people who had more experience than me,” he smiled as he worked the room-temp lard into a bowl of all-purpose flour. “You’re looking for nickel-sized pieces of larded flour,” he continued that the addition of cold buttermilk to this mixture will create its famous flaky layers. The final ingredients were folded, rolled, and cut into squares, before heading to the freezer.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are special days in Maplewood. Whether it’s oven-roasted whole chickens on Tuesdays, or a total “Smoke Out” on Thursdays, customers can pre-order their weeknight meal including local sides such as baked-to-order biscuits. Chris says that not only does the freezing lend to extra flaky biscuits, but it helps them keep ahead of the afternoon rush. Place orders early, as these special meals inevitably sell out. You can even call ahead for carry-out biscuits ($3 per freshly baked biscuits or $2.50 frozen). Not a Show Me State resident? Bolyard’s offers their frozen biscuits overnight with standard shipping charges applied. Just give them a shout at (314)647-2567, or email them at bolyardsmeatsstl@gmail.com.

When it comes down to it, this butcher enjoys his biscuits with a simple drizzle of local honey. But, he’ll never turn down a biscuit…

Alas, man cannot live on biscuits alone. Here’s a couple recipes, Bolyard’s style!

Smoked Garlic and Pickled Jalapeno Deviled Eggs:

Six eggs

¼ c      mayo

1 tsp    yellow mustard

1 tbsp smoked garlic purée (see recipe below)

1 tbsp pickled jalapeño, minced

1/8 tsp salt

 Smoked garlic purée:

Smoke two whole heads of garlic at 200 to 225° for three hours.

Remove from smoker and cut off the end of the garlic head to squeeze out the smoked garlic. Mash into a paste.

 

Method: 

Start the eggs in a pot of water, covering them by 1 1/2 inches. Bring water to boil, then turn off and let the eggs sit in the water for 12 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water. Shock eggs in ice water for three minutes. Carefully peel the eggs, and cut in half. Remove yolks and reserve whites. Mix yolks and the remaining ingredients, until evenly distributed. Add heaping teaspoons of the yolk mixture into the eggs. Sprinkle with cracked pepper on each egg. Chill for one hour, before serving. 

 

Grilled Pork Chop with Salsa Verde

 6  1-inch bone-in pork chops

½ c melted lard

2 tbsp salt     

1 tbsp cracked black pepper

 

Salsa Verde:

4 oz curly parsley, stems removed

1 shallot sliced

1 tbsp capers

1 tbsp anchovies

2  cloves garlic

2 tsp red wine vinegar

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

6 to 8 slices bread and butter pickles

Salt to taste

1 c olive oil

 Salsa Verde Method:

Add all ingredients, except oil to a food processor and blend. Slowly add oil. Blend salsa verde for 1-2 minutes. The mixture should be chunky, not smooth.

Pork Chop Method:

Rub pork chops with lard. Season both sides of pork chops with salt and pepper. Grill pork chops over 500° grill for four minutes per side. Rest for five minutes. Spoon on Salsa Verde and serve.

 Written by Melissa D. Corbin- ANashville- based freelance food and travel journalist. Corbin is also the founder of Corbin In The Dell, a consulting company connecting those who care about where their food comes from. Continue the conversation with her on instagram @melcorbin, twitter @mdcorbin or visit her website at corbininthedell.com. 

  

Week 24: Vandal's Kitchen

To find a good biscuit in West Virginia one must first drive through the impossible beauty of the state, winding through its lush mountains to reach the outdoor paradise of Fayetteville, West Virginia. Fayetteville is a small, but mighty, mountain-town filled with laid-back locals and a surplus of shaggy raft guides. Home to the New River Gorge, the locale teems with postcard-worthy views, world-class rafting, and stellar hikes.

Down Fayetteville’s charming main drag, in a big white house at the top of a hill, is Vandal’s Kitchen. The rustic cafe opened last summer by three friends who wanted to pay homage to the history of the town and one of its forefathers, Abraham Vandal. The site of the historic home in which Vandal’s Kitchen resides used to be a part of Abraham Vandal’s 200-acre farm plot. The townsman and farmer set up a stagecoach stop for weary travelers looking for a home-cooked meal and a welcome respite.

In that spirit, owner Elizabeth Morton aimed to serve up similar comfort to those passing through today. The white Victorian house, built in 1870, offers a stately welcome, but the feeling inside is all rustic comfort. Local art decorates the walls, but “darn good coffee” and fresh food, made-from-scratch, is the focus. Vandal’s sources goods from local farmers to support their breakfast and lunch menus. Simplicity and comfort guide the selections, from kale bowls and avocado toast to chicken and waffles, and of course, biscuits.

The biscuits at Vandal’s Kitchen are not a regular menu item. Look to the chalkboard hanging over the coffee bar for the specials of the day, which is whereyou’ll find them. They are used in special biscuit sandwiches filled with local sausage, sharp cheddar and farm eggs, or paired with comforting gravy and fried chicken. Resident baker, Jon Lester, is responsible for the baked goods at Vandal’s (think gooey cinnamon rolls, homemade “Clif” bars, and a decadent rotation of brownies), including his self-titled “Grandma-style biscuits.”  When asked about ingredients, Lester says they are made with “buttermilk, lots of butter, a little salt, sugar, and some love.” The native West Virginian taps into the memories of his two grandmothers who kept him well-fed in his youth. “Both of them made biscuits,” he says. “That’s where the ‘lots of butter’ comes from.”

Lester, who is the head chef at a restaurant in Beckley, comes to Vandal’s Kitchen to bake for fun. Baking, to the lanky, bespectacled chef, is his moment of zen. He whips out a batch of buttermilk biscuits, gently coaxing the dough into form and then cutting out rounds with the lid of a mason jar. The secret to his tall, fluffy biscuits? “Patience and butter,” he says with a grin. “You have to let the dough rest before throwing it in the oven, that’s what makes it fluffy.”

At Vandals’s Kitchen, the biscuit scraps are rolled into doughnut holes which are then fried and tossed in cinnamon sugar. That spurred Lester’s foray into doughnut making which appear on the chalkboard at Vandal’s regularly. The day we met, he plated up a still-warm biscuit with two farm-fresh eggs, thick-cut bacon and sautéed kale–a welcome comfort to this weary traveler. 

 

Vandal's Kitchen
129 S Court St
Fayetteville, West Virginia
25840
Written by: Keia Mastrianni

 

Week 23: Queen City Bakery

Kristine Moberg is the definition of a perfectionist. At least that’s how her husband—and business partner—Mitch Jackson describes her.

“To know Kristine is to understand what a perfectionist looks like. She insists on perfection not only from herself, but also from our other two full-time bakers,” the co-owner of Queen City Bakery dotes. “Consistency is the name of the game and her command of detail is what makes all of our products stand out. It’s not only the flavor combinations, but the technique.”

But sometimes even perfectionists take leaps of faith.

Kristine’s own gamble came when she and Mitch left their New York City home for the vast unknown of Sioux Falls. The couple had met in France and moved to Manhattan shortly after when, in 2003, Kristine—a complete pastry novice—launched her baking career out of Polka Dot Cake Studio in the West Village. Quick to learn and a natural media darling—she appeared on (or in) The Martha Stewart Show, TODAY Show, The New York Times, Time Out New York and many others—Kristine’s career gained steam, and she longed to open her space, but felt the expensive New York market was out of reach. That’s when she and Mitch turned to South Dakota as an alternative for starting a new home and a family.

“The food scene [in Sioux Falls] is really starting to come into its own,” says Mitch, who claims he only learned baking out of necessity to help run the business. “People are finally realizing that chain restaurants aren’t where to go for good food. Don’t get me wrong, we still get area farmers who think that dining at Applebee’s is a treat, but most people who live here are migrating toward mom-and-pop shops.”

Sioux Falls is one of the few places in the country that was unaffected by the great Recession of 2008; as such, a number of new food businesses like C.H. Patisserie have moved to town and quickly prospered. Mitch cites M.B. Haskett, Parker’s Bistro, Lam’s, Jacky’s and Sanaa’s among other culinary trailblazers in town, adding: “That’s what is great about the food scene right now—people are more conscious of what they are consuming and want something that is crafted and not unwrapped and zapped.”

Enter: Queen City Bakery.

The warm, welcoming café serves as a meeting grounds for many a Sioux Falls resident, as well as a draw for tourists from far and wide who recognize Kristine’s name or have read about the bakery’s accolades via user-based review sites like Yelp or Urban Spoon. Its location along the booming 8th Avenue corridor makes it a convenient place for breakfast, and the atmosphere lends itself to a place patrons want to settle in with a latte and while away the time. And in a city rife in coffee connoisseurs, it also offers java lovers a bevy of food options with which to pair their Americano.

The first iteration of the bakery debuted in 2007 at roughly 1,700 square feet, fitting only three people in the kitchen. The couple quickly amassed a loyal following and outgrew their original digs, opening a new location with double the square footage in 2013.

“We needed a bigger kitchen with a better layout. We needed more seating. Our vision was to find a space the fell in line with the brand of the bakery, stay downtown and give us the room to grow again,” Mitch explains. “That is exactly what we are doing. We have grown considerably in the three years since we have moved in to the new space, and we still have the space to expand without having to move again.”

And while Queen City Bakery’s treats know no bounds—you’ll find everything from turnovers and cheesecake scones to quiche and Boston cream pie—Kristine’s biscuits are second to none.

“Kristine works tirelessly on her technique and makes sure that the other bakers are doing it exactly the way she does as well. I think that’s one of the secrets is the consistency of our product,” Mitch says.

But what else is in Kristine’s secret sauce? It’s all about that flour power, Mitch reveals, in addition to a commitment to using all high-quality ingredients.

“Our ingredients are the second component that makes our biscuits stand out. When we opened, we asked one of our ingredient suppliers for a good flour because we didn’t know what was available here in Sioux Falls. He brought us a run of the mill flour, and after using it in one batch of scones, we immediately donated it to the homeless shelter and told him it wasn’t up to our standards,” he recalls. “We made that company import Wheat Montana Flour for us because we wanted something better, and we source Plugra butter instead of using a regular butter.”

Because at the end of the day, in such complex times, people really just want a dose of simplicity, a shot of the familiar.

“The real trend is people moving away from chain restaurants, and it is a natural tendency to go back to a simple product, like a biscuit, for people to remember what real ‘from scratch’ baking means,” he says. “I think everyone can remember home-cooked meals growing up when biscuits were present and people want to not only remember that time, but also taste that nostalgia.”

Nostalgic and perfect, no doubt—if Kristine has anything to say about it.

 

Recipe from Queen City Bakery:

 Buttermilk Biscuits - yields 12 biscuits

AP Flour: 473g

Baking Powder: 1T. + 1 1/2t.

Baking Soda: 1t.

Salt: 1 1/4t.

Butter: 170g.

Buttermilk: 1 2/3 c.

1. Whisk together all dry.

2. Cut butter into dry.

3. Add buttermilk around edge of bowl. Use a spatula to push mixture towards the center until the mixture comes loosely together.

4. Let sit 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Empty dough onto floured surface. Coat with flour and knead 6 to 8 times until a skin forms.

6. Roll into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle and fold into thirds.

7. Roll into a strip 1/2-inch thick.

8. Cut and invert biscuits onto pan. Roll out scraps and fold into thirds and re-roll. Cut biscuits. Piece together scraps to get any additional biscuits.

9. Brush with milk.

10. Bake at 375 degrees.

 

Queen City Bakery
324 E 8th St
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
57103


Kristin Luna is a biscuit-loving, Nashville-based writer who has penned more than a dozen guidebooks for Frommer's  in addition to contributed to countless magazines, including Travel + Leisure, Southern Living, Newsweek, Glamour, Redbook, Real Simple, Parade, and Forbes. A lifelong globetrotter, Kristin has visited more than 120 countries and shares her adventures and travel photography on her award-winning blog Camels & Chocolate.

Week 22: Beachland Ballroom and Tavern

Sometimes a biscuit is so powerful it awakens a renaissance within a community. We've seen the super hero move before----- restaurant, coffee shop, hotel startup-entrepreneurial-die-hard-natives take advantage of the real estate deals in the grittier, less traveled by parts of town and start a revolutionary new business haven, earning its own portmanteau or slang name. That is exactly what co-owners of Beachland Ballroom and Tavern, located in North Collinwood, of Cleveland, Ohio when their biscuits took "Beachland" by storm. Okay, it wasn't just the biscuits; it's the biscuits and jams. 

We know what you’re thinking. Yes, Beachland is less than ½ mile from the beach, but the name really harkens to the bygone age when the park Euclid Beach (1894-1969) was up and running. "Beachland" is actually a colloquial nomenclature given to the entire North Collinwood neighborhood in those days. The street where Beachland Ballroom resides, Waterloo, is a run-down, shell of a street left when the immigrants of the area vacated and where crime was attempting to sneak its way in. This is the scene of the Ohio biscuit. Yeah, it's a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll. 

Now it wasn't a coffee shop or restaurant or hotel that revitalized Beachland like one might expect. This is Ohio, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after all. So, co-owner Cindy Barber, picked her site and called in co-owner Mark Leddy to do the booking and opened a music venue like Cleveland had never seen but always needed. And then times, they were a-changin'.  

The space was originally a Croatian Liberty Home for numerous social political fronts. Equipped with a ballroom and tavern from the get-go (kitchen and bar are to be added later) the structure had a leg up on the venue competition; it was actually designed with music in mind. When being interviewed Leddy praised the building, stating, "in Cleveland, almost all of the spaces are not made for music at all." Though the space may not have heard the Croatian folk music in many decades, it has been home to just about every genre in between. Beachland Ballroom is continuously heralded for its exceptional acoustics, sound system, and hospitality. The inside of the venue stayed as true to its roots as possible. A wall of bucolic murals depicting scenes of Croatian immigrants dancing and playing remain, amongst a gaggle of fluorescent beer signs lining the goldenly neutral walls, not including the reddish orange wall that reads Liquor in important marquee letters.

 

The walls are eclectic, the people are eclectic and the music is eclectic. The White Stripes played here before moving onto larger venues, and the Black Keys played their first show ever on the Beachland stage. Music and art and food all have a place in this revolutionary space, and the people of Cleveland have definitely noticed.

The only thing more packed than their venue on any given show night is the flavor in the food. Just like rock 'n' roll, brunch is not a meal, it's a life style. Not surprisingly, Beachland Ballroom treats brunch like its really intended, for the bedraggled late risers and shaking off the night before (probably spent attending a show at the venue) and no pretenses. Opening the doors at 11:00am, the lights are dim and the dress is all occasion, including pajamas. Parties of all kinds, shapes, and sizes filter in through the doors and sit at tables spread around, some even placed on what will become the stage later that day. Conversation fills as much of the room as the DJ and his quiet tunes filters through, allowing the perfect soundtrack for the late breakfast. 

“We always had food service at the Beachland because we have to feed the bands,” Cindy Barber explains in a prior interview. So, it only seems natural to progress into feeding the audience as well, we assume. The menu, though sticking with some steadfast staples, has gone through what many bands do, some experimentation, some improvisation, and some transitions. Today, it has resulted in a widely popular brunch with colorfully named colorful drinks such as the Bloody Ninja and Neil Diamond's Cuff Links. The food too, has changed with the times which caters in a menu featuring fun for carnivore, vegetarian, and vegan friends. With that kind of menu brings in locally produced and farm products, which is always a huge plus. 

So imagining the crowd having eggs and shots simultaneously, this is where the Ohio biscuit was born. That’s not the only twist you should expect, intriguing food and classics make their home on the menu like smoked salmon and latkes and, of course, the Deep South Biscuits and Gravy. The biscuits are big and fluffy and they sure are generous with the amazing gravy (can be made vegetarian with mushrooms). When people eat this meal there is an immediate declaration to come back and order it again next Sunday. Always warm and always ready (if you get there between 11:00am and 3:00pm).

This is not just the biscuit of Ohio because it is delicious and worth crawling out of bed for, but because it comes from a place that is truly Ohio. There isn’t a week that Barber and Leddy are not thanked by locals for their contribution to the community and local culture. The Beachland Ballroom and Tavern has changed the music scene for Cleveland forever.

So, make your way to Waterloo. As the locals say when giving directions, it’s the street that has Beachland on it.

Week 21: Ria's Bluebird

Atlanta, Georgia is one of the South’s standard-bearers: One of the places Southerners can turn to when in need of a reminder of who they are and what the South is about. It’s a place where preserving Southern tradition is part of life, and it’s a place where innovators find an encouraging atmosphere to create traditions of their own.

Take Ria’s Bluebird. It’s in Atlanta’s Grant Park, the city’s oldest. It is surrounded by Victorian homes and stands directly across from Oakland Cemetery, where Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell rests. You might think that this would be a place where something as simple and elemental to the culture as, say, biscuits and gravy, would uphold most folks’ expectations for a traditional interpretation.

Um, not quite.

At Ria’s Bluebird, the gravy is meat-free. That’s right: vegetarian biscuits and gravy. So let’s back up. Ria’s Bluebird was founded by chef Ria Pell in 2000. If her name sounds familiar to you, she was a winning chef on Food Network’s Chopped in 2012.

Today, Ria’s is a packed-out breakfast diner (word to the wise: If you’re going on Sunday, get there before 9). But it was once a drive-through liquor store. When Ria first got her hands on the property, there were holes in the ceiling, and no plumbing. It was a shell in an historic neighborhood that badly needed innovation and vision. She revived the place with repurposed heart pine paneled walls, a bright bluebird-themed logo, and a massive mosaic she commissioned friends in California to make for the restaurant.

Then there’s the menu that has a little something for everyone.

Ria, who passed away suddenly in 2013, was known—and is still loved—for how she embraced people that others might consider to be different, including artists and the LGBTQ community. Sixteen years ago, people who didn’t want sausage in their gravy kinda fit that category. Current co-owner Julie Pender says, “at the time, everything wasn’t so chef-driven, and she really wanted a breakfast restaurant that was chef driven. She was also kinda punk rock, and so she was like, ‘no, we’re doing it my way.’ So the vegetarian gravy, I think she was like, ‘I’m gonna do this,’ because everyone was expecting a meat gravy. The vegetarians, of course, love us for it.”

Honestly, anyone could love the biscuits and gravy at Ria’s, because even without sausage, everything’s made with familiar ingredients that deliver lots of flavor. Both the biscuits and gravy are made entirely from scratch using recipes Ria created when she first put the dish on the menu on opening day of Ria’s Bluebird. The recipes haven’t changed much. The pepper milk gravy is based on a roux that starts with a made-in-house roasted garlic oil. “A lot of people will ask, ‘are you sure it doesn’t have, like, something like bacon grease in it? Are you sure?’ Because it’s got a little bit more oomph than just regular plain milk,” Pender says.

The buttermilk biscuits are baked in a half-sheet pans, and over the years, regulars have learned to ask for which biscuits they want. “So, you can get the corner,” Pender says. “The corner edge is my favorite biscuit because you can get the double crusty part. A lot of people request the middle biscuits because they want all the fluff that you get from all four sides.”

What co-owner Julie Pender, who has been at Ria’s for 13 years, loves is that the biscuits and gravy are accessible and comforting: “The biscuits and gravy for me, is kind of like, a hangover cure. Or if you’re like, kind of on a budget, because it’s not that expensive here, it’s only five bucks.” (It used to be $3.)

And, honestly, that comfort is a part of the entire vibe that surrounds Ria’s Bluebird. Ria was known for being generous, whether it was in starting a now-defunct queer arts and music festival, or raising money for someone who needed it. When Ria died in November 2013, people began painting tributes to her on Bluebird’s patio. Julie finally asked an employee to paint a floor-to- ceiling tribute to Ria, a giant portrait of a woman who had a larger-than- life presence and legacy that still continues. Perhaps most important: Thanks to Ria, an historic neighborhood that once seemed kinda sketchy is now a delightful place to walk to your corner diner for a $5 bowl of biscuits and gravy.

**This blog was cleverly written by one of the International Biscuit Festival freelance writers, Shaun Chavis, who also obtained these special photos. Shaun is the Editor of Saltshaker Marketing & Media, LLC. Please check out more of her work at http://saltshakermarketing.com/.

Week 20: Holler & Dash

This week we've provided a little something special for you guys. We've always been able to consider Alabama as a staple for Southern food, and we trust folks like Melissa Corbin (who was born and bred in the south) to provide us with coverage of some of the most special Biscuit makers in the Alabama area. 

Give this podcast a listen and learn all about Brandon Frohne, the creator of Holler & Dash, Homewood, Alabama's newest Biscuit fix! 

Follow along with Melissa as she discusses the International Biscuit Festival, how Brandon got his start (and became an IBF Biscuit Baking Contest winner!), his experience on the Food Network, and what he believes makes his Biscuits so dang special!

LISTEN BELOW!

This podcast features renowned Biscuit Queen, Erin Donovan, and Biscuit Boss John Craig, both pictured below.

 

 

Week 19: Handsome Biscuit

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Now, Fifty States of Biscuits has been asked many question and many requests, but one of our personal favorites is not entirely related to biscuit, describe your perfect date. And of course, we immediately related it to biscuits.

What makes he perfect date? Sense of humor, some adventure, makes you feel safe with comfort food, quirky, unique, affordable, and most importantly--- handsome.

Who makes up this perfect being? Handsome Biscuit of Norfolk, Virginia not only houses perfection but recreates it daily, serving as many as 5,000 biscuits a week. This is made even more impressive when you see the quaint, humble store of only twelve seats, whose golden outside matches only that of the sweet potato biscuits coming out of the Handsome Biscuit oven every thirty minutes.

We like someone up front with simple hobbies, “We make sweet potato biscuits and then put stuff in between them”.

Handsome “biscuits are made fresh daily, never frozen, and are made with high quality ingredients. We use locally grown sweet potatoes as the main component. We try to shop local whenever possible.”

Just because a date is perfect for you doesn’t mean you will be perfect for your date. Tread with caution and remember, this is not a time to be afraid of a handsy date. Something Biscuit Fest has learned in our travels is that a well- handled biscuit is an experienced one. “We only use our hands to mix our biscuit dough. Grating our butter is a key step, too! Then we fold, fold, fold, and fold again before cutting. Biscuit dough is very temperamental, especially when it's humid outside. We treat them like little babies, with a tender touch. It's important not to over bake them.” You have all experienced a picky date, this one is just especially… vulnerable, and needs to be treated with care.

This brings us to why and what exactly, makes this Virginia biscuit haven makes us feel safe and comforted with sweet, sweet potatoes, but also can show us its crazy side. “Our best selling biscuit is our Hella Fitzgerald. It's a fried chicken thigh, topped with our red-eye sausage gravy, cheddar cheese, and bacon. Another favorite is our AC Slawter with sweet pulled pork, apple coleslaw, and our house made hot sauce.” Sound amazing, amiright? All of that and you can even add caviar. You read that right, caviar. These are not your average biscuits by any means.  

So, you all have now learned Biscuit Fest’s idea of the perfect biscuit date. We thought it would be a good idea to hear the same from Handsome Biscuit. “A perfect biscuit is soft in the middle and perfectly golden on top. It has to have that beautiful flaky pull when you rip it in two. And nobody likes a dry biscuit! Our sweet potatoes ensure our biscuits are soft and moist!” Now that folks, is one Handsome Biscuit. Thank you, Virginia, for giving the fifty states a very exciting week in biscuits and sweet potatoes. Until next time! 

Week 18: Pullman's Bar and Diner

With July fourth just around the corner, we have decided to start this week with a bang! Putting a focus on the 50 states of Biscuits and 50 states of America, this week’s biscuit hails from Iowa in a new take on an old classic, the American diner.

Pullman’s Bar and Diner of Iowa City, Iowa has mastered a menu that is as equal parts familiar as it is unexpected. A traditional diner with untraditional twists? That’s one of our favorite ingredients in a biscuit made from scratch. So, of course, we were really excited to get our hands on Iowa’s biscuits and to see where exactly we would be enjoying them.

We’ve made jokes about gravy trains before, but how about a restaurant that looks like one? With arched ceilings and long, narrow space, and a straight shot to the back, customers can feel the subtle references to a dining car of a train. You guessed, that’s how the name Pullman’s came about as well, as in the original old fashioned dining railcar manufacturers.

That’s not the only thing old-timey about Pullman’s. As soon as you walk in the front door you are greeted with an atmosphere evoking an old American diner: red vinyl booths, a long bar stretching front to back, and vintage lighting. Not to mention the interactive experience, the exposed kitchen so diners can watch their food being prepared, and maybe inspire them to order something else off the menu.

The whole restaurant is a series of moving parts, celebrating the industrial craftsmanship America was built on, it’s like a machine itself. However, don’t be fooled by the comparison of a well-oiled machine. This is not fast food.

In fact, it’s slow food. That is, food that is prepared traditionally, with local culinary expertise and local ingredients. Pullman’s prides itself with its commitment to local food and agriculture tradition. Everything is made as in-house as possible, involving many hands and several farmers.

This means that your biscuit comes with a great accessory, a local honey pot. And what else comes with their biscuit? Fluffy.

Co-owner Corey Kent was kind enough to divulge some tasty tidbits when it comes to their biscuits. “We make a southern-style, buttermilk drop biscuit. It has more of a fluffy bread-like interior as opposed to a traditional flaky biscuit made with laminated dough.” And they create and maintain this wonderful biscuit flakey-ness by “keeping the ingredients cold up until baking them. That's what creates the fluffy, light texture that we are so fond of with these biscuits.”

So, now that you are armed with the traditional safety blanket that is a fluffy biscuit, you can take a step out of your comfort zone and order the exciting things. As strange as they sound it’s hard to pass up the opportunity to eat unexpected food made by exceptionally talented people. So get acquainted and expect the culinary gems like the roasted bone marrow, corned beef hash, and croque madame. 

If we have you worried that you’re not going to make it to Iowa soon enough to try these daring dinners, then we have something that may help. Though it is not served on their biscuits at Pullman’s, its title makes it sound like it could be.When you love biscuits as much as we do, you begin to love a lot of other things based on their association with biscuits, like---- jelly, jam, honey, fried chicken, bacon. So why not bacon jam? And why not the recipe to it?

 

Pullman’s Bacon Jam

· 1 lb slab bacon, small dice

· 4 red onions, small dice

· 1/2 oz garlic, minced

· 4 cups red wine vinegar

· 4 cups brown sugar

· Pinch of cayenne pepper

Render bacon until crispy and pour out half of the excess bacon fat. Add red onion and cook until translucent. Add remaining ingredients and cook until vinegar is reduced and the liquid is syrupy. Once cooled, the texture should be reminiscent of a chunky jam.

Try that bacon jam on their bone marrow, or get on the traditional side of the menu with some amazing fried chicken accompanied by some greens, and, like your surprised, a biscuit!

Pullman’s Bar and Diner, where the 50-60’s age diner and old school stereo system meets new age with an inventive menu and new customers. Pullman’s Bar and Diner, your next dinner destination, you wont regret it. They have plenty of biscuits waiting for you!

WEEK 17: Biscuits + Groovy

In a world where you can Google anything, you might come across some winning searches like how can I grow taller? How can I be happy? And--- how can I be cool?

And while we don’t know a scientifically proven secret to growing taller (though, we might suggest moving to Texas because everything’s bigger in Texas), we can give you a direction that may just answer all of your questions and more. Now introducing the biscuit of Texas, Biscuits + Groovy.

We were lucky enough to speak with the creator and owner of Biscuits + Groovy, Jon Lach, and ask about the food trucks origins.

“Biscuits + Groovy started in 2010 in Austin, TX. Back then, we only had the original Biscuits + Groovy plus several lunch and dinner options, but had to cut our menu back drastically to accommodate how busy we were with such little room inside of the trailer. We now offer buttermilk biscuits or vegan biscuits, topped with gravy and all sorts of topping options, with a disco theme. We have a very wide selection of flavored biscuits that we offer for catering - garlic cheddar, jalapeno cheddar, honey butter, sweet potato, etc.”

We also learned from some locals that the easiest way to find this dream fulfilling food truck is to follow the line. Once you hop aboard the gravy train and ride it all the way to the front you can make your choice from the perfectly curated and thought out biscuit menu.

As you might have picked up from the name, the menu pays homage to 70s-era music icons: The Aretha Franklin featuring three freshly baked buttermilk biscuits smothered in white pepper gravy topped with sausage and chives and accompanied by thick cut peppered maple bacon and Colby jack cheese. There’s also the Johnny Hash paying homage to the Man in Black and of course potatoes with biscuits, gravy, potatoes, thick sliced peppered maple bacon, sausage and Colby jack cheese. The rest of the menu items and names are as thematic and will make you ecstatic. And if that doesn’t do it for you, have we mentioned that everything at the food truck can be veganized? Biscuits + Groovy takes this seriously, they even color code their equipment to keep the vegan options separate from the regular. Now that’s some southern hospitality.

And here we come to how do you become cool? Jon gave us a lesson on just how early the biscuits started their lives as Texas’s best biscuits. This is what makes their biscuits so cool.

“Aside from the fact that our biscuits are subjected to 70s tunes from their early stages as flour, butter and buttermilk until they enter the mouths of our customers later in the day, the way we put our dishes together is a quite different than most other biscuit places. We layer the toppings atop the gravy, versus the traditional biscuit sandwich approach.”

That’s right, this biscuit vehicle uses their biscuits as vehicles to carry high quality and delicious ingredients from their kitchen to your mouth.

This brings us to another very important question to answer, how can you be happy?

Well, for starters you can make your way to Austin, Texas and eat one of these groovy biscuits. However, we understand that this may not be possible for everyone, and we do want everyone to be happy after all. So, we have, for your viewing and tasting pleasure, the Biscuits + Groovy biscuit process.

“We use high quality ingredients, such as very low protein flour (lower protein == lower gluten == less hard biscuits). Our biscuits are made in the traditional way - mix dry ingredients, add fat (butter), add buttermilk, very gently incorporate the milk into the flour, gently knead the dough, flatten and cut, refrigerate again to keep everything super cold (it gets incredibly hot in a tin can trailer in Texas), then bake at a high temperature until super fluffy and golden brown. We place ours on the pan touching so they have soft sides.  Serve hot! We bake our biscuits pretty much non stop the entire time we're open, so just about everyone gets a fresh from the oven biscuit. They're the best that way.”

Oh, and did we mention we also have the recipe to their Bourbon Biscuit Bread Pudding!?

INGREDIENTS

·       1 cup raisins

·       3 tablespoons bourbon

·       12 day-old biscuits

·       1 quart whole milk

·       2 tablespoons melted butter

·       6 large eggs

·       2 cups sugar

·       2 tablespoons vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

Special equipment: 8 mini loaf pans
Stir together the raisins and bourbon in a medium bowl. Let soak at room temperature for 6 hours. 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Crumble the biscuits into large pieces in a large bowl. Add the milk and let soak for 5 minutes. 
Grease 8 mini loaf pans with the melted butter. Add the eggs, sugar and vanilla to the bowl with the bourbon raisins, then add to the biscuit mixture. Stir until just combined and pour into the prepared pans. Bake until set, about 1 hour. Serve warm. 


So, here you are, happy with your biscuit and Bourbon Biscuit Bread Pudding, you’re growing taller every day with the HUGE serving sizes, and you just can’t look any cooler sitting at one of their red and yellow picnic tables enjoying your beautiful biscuit. You can even bring the grooviness home with you by bringing in your own mix tape CD and swapping it in for a new one from another cool customer. And now we have taught you all of the secrets of biscuits of Texas. The only thing you have to do is get on your way to Austin, Texas. Googling pictures is just not as satisfying. Trust us.